Colby Covington x Jorge Masvidal: The Conception of Contention

Credit: @DiazTwinsMMA

Ahead of their main event clash at UFC 272, the origin of the long standing feud between perennial welterweight contenders Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal requires a deeper dive in order to reveal the true animosity between these two fighters. This piece will look at the order of events chronologically to aid the audience in understanding the severity of this rivalry, and the overall magnitude of this event.

Colby Covington arrives at American Top Team (2011)

In an attempt to improve the wrestling department at American Top Team, founder Dan Lambert hosted tryouts for top level collegiate wrestlers who had recently graduated. Among these candidates was none other than Colby Covington, who was fresh off of an All-American campaign that saw him finish fifth in his weight class at the NCAA National Championship. Colby was then asked to join American Top Team following what was an impressive tryout, and found a new friend in the form of Jorge Masvidal. Jorge was already an experienced mixed martial artist at the time, and the pair had such opposite styles that training together actually helped to round out each other’s games. They began to see each other around the facilities, and occasionally they ran into each other at several casinos. It was also during this time of their relationship that Jorge claims to have “saved” Colby from loan sharks whom Covington allegedly owed money for poker.

At the time, Jorge had been working with striking coach Paulino Hernandez for his entire career and even suggested that Paulino’s role in his life was that of a second father figure. While Paulino was never and remains not officially part of ATT’s coaching staff, Paulino is always welcomed at their facilities as a freelance coach, as he’s worked with several ATT athletes over the years. Since his newly found friend needed help with striking, it seemed like a no-brainer for Masvidal to recommend Paulino to Colby. Paulino accepted, on the condition that Colby pays him 5% of his fight purses for his efforts (this is the same deal that Jorge has with Paulino).

A year or so later, a vacant bedroom in his apartment opened the door for a new roommate for Jorge in the form of a familiar face.

According to the story told by Jorge, Colby and his girlfriend had broken up, and with no available dorms at the American Top Team facility, he moved in with Jorge. Colby broke his hand in a fight, then re-injured it in training several months later, which left him with no ability to earn income since he could not fight. It was during this time that Jorge alleges Colby slept on his couch, ate his food. He also alleged that Colby was unable to pay him $300 per month for rent, since he was not able to compete and bring in income.

Colby Covington def. Damian Maia at UFC Fight Night 119 (October 28th, 2017)

In Colby’s previous fight against Dong Hyun Kim, Dan Lambert was told by Sean Shelby that the UFC were going to cut Covington after his next performance because he was on an expiring deal and he was beating fighters that fans gravitated towards while not being able to draw in fans of his own; this was mostly due to his uninteresting style, which at the time consisted mainly of uneventful top control. So, after defeating Damian Maia in his native Brazil in his next fight, Colby Covington (seemingly) saved his career by cutting one of the more memorable promos in UFC history:

“Brazil you’re a dump! All you filthy animals suck! I got one thing to say, Tyron Woodley I’m coming for you! If you don’t answer the front door, I’m gonna knock it in and I’m gonna take what’s mine, that welterweight belt!”

This is what jump started Colby’s era of demanding the limelight, from here on out Colby Covington’s public persona is that of a professional wrestling heel.

Colby Covington def. Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 225 (June 9th, 2018)

In his next move after becoming a public enemy, Covington challenges former UFC champion Rafael Dos Anjos for the interim welterweight championship. Colby had yet another dominant wrestling heavy performance and won this fight quite convincingly. When speaking with Joe Rogan after the contest, Colby doubled down on his newly found villain persona and cut another promo, aiming directly for Tyron Woodley.

In the corner of Colby Covington were his trusted company of Jorge Masvidal and Paulino Hernandez. UFC 225 would mark the last time both of these men were in Colby’s corner.

According to Jorge, Colby had built up a $12,500 debt at this time by not paying Paulino. Jorge alleges that the amount that Colby was paid would cover the expenses, as 5% of his purse was $12,500. According to Colby, he was actually paid half of the rumored amount and therefore he did not have the appropriate funds to pay back Paulino. This is a murky area of their feud, as the Illinois State Athletic Commission does not release fighter payouts. The payouts listed online for UFC 225 are estimations based on previous purses.

Credit: Jorge Masvidal on Instagram

Now that Jorge is under the impression that Colby is not going to pay Paulino back, he is reasonably peeved. As previously mentioned, Paulino is like a father figure to him, and Jorge feels as if he was the one that was responsible for this whole mess since he brought Colby to Paulino initially. Masvidal claimed that he confronted Colby about this at the gym and Colby said he and Paulino had “figured it out”. Jorge found out afterwards that this was not the case, and Paulino was still not going to be paid the amount that they agreed upon. Paulino Hernandez is on record saying he was owed $17,500, but was actually paid $5,000. 

Colby had dug really deep into his character at this point, and nothing was off limits for his promotional material. Jorge has mentioned how the Brazilians at ATT looked at him differently after the Maia and Dos Anjos fights and fighters at the gym are tired of the distractions caused by Colby. Jorge even told a story about how a group of Russian athletes at ATT cornered Colby after he said disparaging things about Khabib in the media. American Top Team is starting to be directly affected by Colby’s antics in 2018, but little did the team realize how out of control some things would get.

Jorge Masvidal def. Ben Askren at UFC 239 (July 6th, 2019)

In five seconds, Jorge pulled off one of the most viral sports moments of the past decade. His flying knee KO of Ben Askren propelled him to stardom, and set the stage for what would become the biggest fights of his career. What made the victory all the more satisfying was that it marked the second straight knockout finish for Jorge since his return from his UFC hiatus. This fight marked the peak of “the resurrection” and is what Jorge is most known for today.

Colby even posted on social media after this fight congratulating his “best friend” while also taking credit for showing Jorge how to deal with Askren’s wrestling abilities during camp. It is worth noting that Jorge claims they had not spoken on the phone for a year at this point, although their feud was not yet public.

Colby Covington def. Robbie Lawler at UFC on ESPN 5 (August 3rd, 2019)

In the lead up to his main event against former ATT athlete Robbie Lawler (who Covington obviously took egregious shots towards), he made his first public disparagement of Masvidal.  Colby said during a pre-fight interview that he deserves a title shot over Jorge if he wins, because at that time Jorge was 2-2 in his last four fights. He even said Jorge is the Robin to Colby’s Batman, which infuriated Jorge. At this point in their relationship they are not hanging out outside of practice, rarely cross paths at the gym, and have no communication.

Colby had a dominant performance over Robbie Lawler to earn a chance at undisputed gold against Kamaru Usman. 50-44, 50-45, and 50-45 were the judge’s scores of the main event, and Covington even earned the record for most significant strikes attempted in a five round fight with 515 (Max Holloway beat this record on January 16th, 2021 totaling 744). His pace and pressure mixed with chain wrestling and punches in bunches caused fans to demand for him to earn a title shot (as well as some theatrics at the analyst desk post fight).

Confrontation at UFC 241 (August 17th, 2019)

UFC 241: Cormier v Miocic 2 took place in Anaheim, California. While at the event, Jorge ran into Colby in the front row. He asked Colby to come outside and talk, which Colby refused. Security separates them, and allegedly Colby tells Dana White what happened. Dana then asks Masvidal to behave himself, after the two have been put in separate sections. Later in the night, Nate Diaz defeats Anthony Pettis and calls out Jorge to fight for the BMF title, which did not exist before Nate’s callout. Having a household name like Nate Diaz pay homage to Jorge during his callout not only caught Masvidal’s attention, but also the imagination of fans worldwide. This moment is critical in the popularity resurgence of Jorge Masvidal. 

While UFC security did a good job of keeping those two apart, they would have no jurisdiction over the activities within the walls of American Top Team.

Soon after UFC 241, Masvidal approached Covington at the gym and told him that he was getting sick of Colby always mentioning Jorge in the media, and taking public shots at him. Their conversation did not turn physical, and Jorge felt that he had said his piece and began to walk away. Masvidal claimed that Covington “made a big scene” as soon as Jorge was walking away from their confrontation and a crowd of ATT fighters showed up to keep the two separated. Jorge then tells Colby to meet him at a sushi restaurant “Dinner’s on me you know. Let’s go, I’ll be waiting for you.” According to Jorge, Colby did not show up.

Jorge Masvidal def. Nate Diaz at UFC 244 (November 2nd, 2019)

UFC 244 was a massive event (although the official buy rate was never released) and rightfully so, it put both Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz on a pedestal for weeks leading up to the bout. It was clear that the winner of this bout would stand to receive even more positive exposure to the masses, which gave this fight a sort of unique feel despite not having an official championship on the line. Jorge ended up battering Nate through three rounds, dropping and cutting him open several times. The fight was controversially stopped by the doctor due to lacerations above Diaz’s eye, but this public opinion quickly changed when the adrenaline of the event wore off. 

In the context of Colby and Jorge’s feud, this event was significant because the original plan was to have Colby headline UFC 244 against Usman, and even much of their buildup was geared around their fight being at Madison Square Garden. When negotiations with Colby and Kamaru grew tiring, the UFC called an audible and slated Nate vs Jorge for that main event slot at MSG, delaying Usman vs Covington to the following month’s PPV event in Las Vegas. The buildup to UFC 244 also marked the beginning of Jorge taking shots at Colby when speaking to the media, which defies Masvidal’s previous claim about only publicly disparaging Colby for the first time in March of 2020.

Credit: Getty Images

Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington at UFC 245 (December 14th, 2019)

The following month, Covington had his initial chance at undisputed gold when he lost via TKO late in the fifth round of a classic fight. Usman finished Colby with ground and pound after fracturing his jaw mid fight, which handed Covington his first loss since 2015, only his second ever in the UFC. It turned out to be a gutsy performance for Colby, but not enough to win the belt. Colby was relentlessly harassed by fans for running out of the octagon before Kamaru finished his post fight interview. 

Jorge had some words for Colby after his loss, which again does contradict Masvidal’s timeline. Regardless, his thoughts were:

Dan Lambert Implements no teammate trashtalking policy (March 21st, 2020)

As the founder of American Top Team, Dan Lambert was put in an incredibly uncomfortable position. The feud between Colby and Jorge had gotten way out of hand, to the point where it began to negatively affect all levels of management at American Top Team. Dan also felt somewhat responsible, as he encouraged Colby to be more promotion-savvy after the UFC threatened to cut Covington in 2017. So, Lambert decided to implement a new policy for the gym: Teammates may not publicly trash talk each other under no circumstances, and this is a zero tolerance policy. 

Jorge, in what he claimed to be his first instance of ever publicly disparaging Colby, tweeted:

He was subsequently kicked from the gym just three days after the rule was implemented. Covington was also kicked out of the gym as a result of this tweet, despite not responding to it. Jorge nagged Lambert for three months before he was allowed to return, but he did not apologize or delete the tweet like Lambert wanted. 

Colby did not return to ATT, he instead went with another fabled south Florida gym; MMA Masters. He has been with this camp ever since he left American Top Team. 

Colby Covington def. Tyron Woodley at UFC Fight Night 178 (September 19th, 2020)

In what was viewed as a fight that happened too late, Colby Covington finally got his chance to fight Tyron Woodley, after a beef withstanding over two years of toxicity. Like much of his previous promotional content, Colby emphasized his right-leaning politics and affiliation with Donald Trump heavily in the build up to his fight with Woodley. That coupled with Tyron’s opposing political stance caused for an even more volatile atmosphere before the fight, even though some anticipation had been lost due to Woodley’s losing streak at the time.

Once Colby finished Woodley late in the fight, he immediately began promoting his next preferred matchup; Jorge Masvidal. He used all of his camera time and media availability to trash Jorge and call him out. While Colby had always been open to the idea of fighting Masvidal and publicly taunted him to agree to a bout, this was the first instance of him focusing all of his energy towards Jorge in that sense. This is when many fans began to call this matchup inevitable.

Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251 (July 11th, 2020)

UFC 251 was a potpourri of promotional gems. This was still fairly early into the pandemic, and the UFC’s dominating presence in the sports field had not only boosted its popularity, but also the magnitude of it’s pilot event on the fabled Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Dominant champion Kamaru Usman was in desperate need of a new challenger after Gilbert Burns was forced to withdraw, when Jorge Masvidal answered the call on six day’s notice and successfully made weight for the event. Jorge coming in at the last minute gave the card an enticing story line and without a doubt put this event’s buy rate over the top, generating 1.3 million domestic PPV buys, one of the highest in the history of the sport.

Although Jorge lost this fight, his stock was not greatly diminished since he managed to go the distance with Usman while not having the benefit of a full training camp. Comparisons between his performance and Colby’s against Usman were plentiful, even from the two former friends. It was at this point that Kamaru Usman became a common denominator for both these men.

Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 (April 24th, 2021)

In what Kamaru has coined as the start of his “second lap” of the division, a rematch between Usman and Masvidal was set for UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida in what was the first full capacity indoor sporting event since the pandemic began in 2020. While many criticized the UFC for rewarding Masvidal with an immediate rematch, he was a massive crowd favorite in his home state and the show sold incredibly well.

Jorge’s first knockout loss since 2008 was not what the masses were expecting but the image of Masvidal on the canvas became incredibly viral. Among the trolls was none other than Colby, who was reveling in his foe’s shortcomings. The build up to this event also included Colby bringing Jorge’s marital situation to light, which Jorge has cited often as crossing the line.

Kamaru Usman def. Colby Covington at UFC 268 (November 6th, 2021)

With no other overwhelmingly deserving number one contender for Kamaru Usman to take on, the doorway to an Usman vs Covington rematch was swung open for the main event of UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden. After the chaos that was their first meeting, the hype for their rematch was at an all time high. The company stacked the entire card full of quality match-ups in what made for a collectively electric night of fights.

Colby lost a razor thin decision after being dropped twice earlier in the fight. Conversely, he ended up having the majority of his success later in the fight after weathering the storm early on. Again, even with a loss to Usman, Colby’s stock did not seem to diminish much; he made headlines immediately following the event when he stormed into the press room and called for a fight with Jorge Masvidal.

Colby’s sudden return to kayfabe is what caused talks of him facing Jorge to gain traction. All of a sudden, Jorge was forced to withdraw from his fight with Leon Edwards due to injury, and will instead face his longtime foe Colby Covington three months later.

Credit: Jorge Masvidal on Instagram

From their initial acquaintanceship, to their years spent as roommates, to their first dispute, all the way to their public falling out, Colby and Jorge have been through an astounding amount of bickering. For so long, they have not been able to act on their promises of harm, but on Saturday night they will finally be released from their shackles and get their chance. Two of the most universally recognizable characters in the sport will finally settle the score in the fight capital of the world in the main event of an action packed PPV event at UFC 272: Covington vs Masvidal.

Massachusetts native currently writing for Severe MMA. Former writer for Neutral Zone LLC. Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo, LinkedIn and Youtube @ Theo Lander for articles and event coverage.

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